Sunday, February 5, 2017

Springfield Armory 1907 pattern leather sling

I know my Remington 700 Police isn’t even close to being an M24 clone, but while pondering the idea of building a true clone (I have since dismissed the idea, lol!) I stumbled on a few photos of M24s with these old school looking leather slings.  I also noted the same or similar sling being sported on an M14 from Black Hawk Down.

I actually don’t sling any of my rifles and I seldom sling my C7 at work.  It’s not that I don’t like slings, I just never bothered to use them.  When it came to my M14, I guess I watched Black Hawk Down one too many times and I tried to build a copy (not a clone, because that would mean some serious sourcing of parts for an accurate clone) of SFC Randall Shughart’s M14 as it was featured in the film.  His actual M14 was likely a little different, for starters, the Aimpoint used in the film didn’t exist during the Battle of the Black Sea.  Anyway, getting back on topic, I just grabbed the first leather sling I could find from Wholesale Sports and threw it on my M14, not knowing anything about the model or its history.

Fast forward three years later and I find myself researching the sling on these M24s.  There wasn’t a lot of info or photos of this sling because it appeared that most M24 users did not use the sling.  I was still interested so I did a little digging and found it was the same sling as was featured on the M14, a government issued M1907 leather sling. 

Here’s some more info shamelessly stolen from another forum:

Folks, the GOOD USGI leather slings used in WWI through WWII and Korea and right up to present day with NM shooters ALL are either original or EXACT reproductions of the M1905/7 rifle sling. 

Now there are a BUNCH of ones made in large quantities that go from poor to downright junk. So, how do you tell if the slings are poor to downright junk, or GOOD slings? 

1. Low price USUALLY means you are going to get a poor or junk sling. If the sling costs less than $ 30.00, then it won't be a GOOD sling. GOOD slings usually start at over $ 60.00 to 65.00 and go up in the 80's and 90 dollar range. However, price ALONE doesn't mean a whole lot.

2. IF the holes in the sling are ROUND, then don't walk but RUN from those slings. Round holes work loose in no time and then the sling hook won't hold in it correctly and pop out easily. Original GI slings and exact reproductions have holes that look like a rectangle with the long side laying down, but the ends are curved so they won't tear out with use. Sling hooks take a long time to wear out with these holes. 

3. Carefully examine the quality of the sling hooks. USGI slings and exact reproductions had/had thick brass or thick parkerized steel hooks. Poor to bad quality slings have plated or thin hooks and they will bend or crack with far less use than good slings. Now, you have to see a few real slings to get an idea of what good sling hooks look like. UNFORTUNATELY, some of the poor to junk slings have good parkerized steel hooks, though.

4. Carefully examine the Sling Keepers for snug fit and the quality of the sewing. Sling Keepers are the leather loops that hold two thicknesses of leather in the sling together and help tighten the sling. USGI sling keepers were sewn by a quality leather stitching machine that gave nice looking stitches and fit VERY snug when new. ALSO and even better, some USGI sling keepers were hand sewn and that lasts longer than machine stitching. JUNK sling keepers are just stapled together. Poor quality stitching will mean a poor or junk grade sling.

5. WHERE the leather was cut from the hide is VERY IMPORTANT and so is the quality of the tanning process. The problem here is even if you are an advanced leather worker, it is sometimes difficult to impossible to tell that when the sling is new. Some times a funny smell will tell you the tanning process wasn't good, but most people don't have the "Nose Knowledge" for that. Grin. What is very difficult to tell by eyeball and not real easy to tell by feel is where the leather for the sling was cut from the hide. Poor or JUNK slings will be made from the Belly Leather that will bend, twist and distort way too soon and easily. ONE thing to look for though is if the rough side of the leather has loose looking "flakes" on it, then that is NOT well processed leather for a leather sling. It could have been good leather, but it was not skived or thinned correctly by cutting. 

OK, so how DO you know you are getting a GOOD sling when you order one? Well, I probably don't know everyone who makes high quality slings but I can recommend Richard Turner of Turner Saddlery and Les Tam from Hawaii We bought a LOT of Turner slings for THE Marine Corps Rifle Team because the quality was so good.

Many guys who do WWII reenacting have started out with the cheaper leather slings and even though they don't shoot live rounds, they have found the cheap ones don't hold up to make it worthwhile to buy the cheaper leather slings. 

OK, I'm going off topic here. There is a synthetic sling that has all the good properties of a leather sling with hardly none of the bad ones. That is the AWS All Weather Sling sold by Turner. A fair number of Virginia High Power shooters use them and most recommend them highly. I got one and was impressed by it and loaned it out. Haven't seen it in a few years and the guys using it really like it.

Anyway, as I wasn’t concerned with building a clone accurate copy, I just ordered one of the cheaper, hopefully US-made ones, which was being offered by Springfield Armory.  The leather looked almost white in the photos, it had black hardware, had half-decent reviews and most importantly it wasn’t uber expensive, lol!

The sling was marked Springfield Armory, Geneseo IL, though I’m sure the USGI issued ones did not have these markings on it.  The one I bought for my M14 years ago was stamped Made in Canada.  In comparison, my Wholesale Sport sling was already treated and very soft.  In fact, it was almost wet to the touch with oil, which was a bit annoying at first, but I found it was quite weather resistant so I guess that’s a good thing.  

After I ordered the Springfield sling, I read the reviews (I know, I should have done this the other way around), and there were numerous complaints regarding the stitching on the Springfield slings.  Most were saying the stitching appeared weak and substandard, with loose threads everywhere.  When I got my sling, I sort of noticed the same thing.  The stitching did not appear nearly as robust as my Wholesale Sports sling, and there were loose threads.  I hope the stitches hold up, but I probably won’t be abusing the sling too much.  And with the loose threads, well, as anyone who’s worn CADPAT will tell you, just bust out the Bic and sort out those threads before inspection.

The riveting and the hardware looked okay.  My Wholesale Sports sling had brass fittings, the Springfield one had steel fittings finished in a semi-gloss black.  They definitely do not appear parkerized, and they don’t look blued, but I could be wrong.

When I bought the sling for my M14, I had no idea how to attach the thing to my rifle.  I just threw it on and never thought of looking online or watching a youtube video.  Nowadays, you can find a youtube video on just about anything so it makes me wonder why I’m bothering to document this as I doubt anyone will read it anyway, lol!  

I found this video easy to follow and the layout seemed to be simple.  It was totally different than how I did the sling for my M14 so after I finished with my 700, I redid the sling for my M14, loL!

I laid out my rifle with the barrel pointing to my right.  The shorter strap with the smooth side facing up, the frog (hooks) on the left facing down.  The keepers (loops) placed on the right side of the short strap, with the stitches facing down.  Then the longer strap is laid out closer to me, with the smooth side facing down and the frog facing up.  

Take the keepers and slide them onto the longer strap, stitches on the keepers facing down, the long strap with the rough side still facing up.  

Slide the keepers all the way down the long strap, almost halfway between the sets of holes.

Next, take the long strap (with the rough side still facing up) and feed it through the loop of the short strap (which still has its smooth side facing up).

With the long strap now fed through the loop of the short strap, fold the long strap back onto itself and feed it through the keepers.  

Keep pulling the long strap through the keepers and there should be some material overhanding itself.  The rough side should now be sandwiched in on itself.  

Now, this is where there are some variations of how the sling is attached to the rifle.  According to the youtube video and Jim Owens' book, Leather Slings and Shooting Positions, turn the whole sling so that the frog on the longer strap is closer to the rifle.  Feed the sling through the front sling loop on your rifle.  For orientation, the rifle is facing you, with the trigger and stock side closest to you and barreled action and scope facing away, barrel still pointed towards your right.  The long sling portion will be fed through the front sling loop with the rough side towards you and the smooth side towards the stock.

Now take the frog from the long strap and hook it onto the part that you just fed through the front sling loop of your rifle.

With the front end of the sling assembly now attached, we can move on to the rear.  Feed the frog from the short strap through the rear sling loop of your rifle, with the hook side facing towards you.  

Pull the frog from the short strap all the way to the front of the rifle and hook it on to the long strap above the other frog.  This should result in a complete loop with only smooth surfaces facing you, and the rifle, with the rough side sandwiched in the middle.  

When not in use, the sling should look like this, with the frog from the short strap hooked forward of the frog from the long strap.  When you need to use your sling for carrying or for shooting, simply detatch the frog from the short strap and hook it onto itself (short strap).  Then there’s a whole other lesson (as demonstrated in the youtube video) on how to secure the sling around your arm and locking down tension when shooting, but I don’t think I’m smart enough to describe how to do it in words, lol! 

Now, most of the photos I’ve seen of the 1907 sling show the frogs facing outwards, not towards the rifle stock as I have done and how it was done in the video.    I’ll have to try it out this way and see if I like it.  Worst case scenario is I swap it back.  For more reading on this, check out this post here regarding this style configuration:

So, at first, I was content with the color of the Springfield sling as it came out of the package, but the more I read about its use, the more I understood that the way the leather comes from Springfield is that it is untreated and over time, the leather could deteriorate.  There were also always little bits of leather that was flaking off like a bad case of dandruff which was not the case with my heavily oiled Wholesale Sports sling.  

I did a little reading about various ways to condition the leather and make it last as long as possible and settled on Neatsfoot oil.  There was also an argument on using Neatsfoot oil compound, versus using pure Neatsfoot oil and I just grabbed the compound version because that’s what was readily available.  

As you can see, just the first application darkened the leather right away, so if you like your leather white as a ghost, find something else.  For me, it really didn’t bother me at all.

It absorbs into the rough side a lot faster.

After the first coat, the sling looked a little splotchy.  I've read that you should apply coat after coat until the leather won't absorb any more.  

Overall, I’m pretty happy with the sling and the new finish.  It was a fun little project for a cold winter day.  

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